FAIRMONT — After eight years in office, Charles Kemp handed the duties of mayor over to Charles Townsend, who was sworn in along with three newly elected town commissioners on Thursday night.
Kemp delivered an emotional speech before leaving the meeting early. In front of a crowd of about 100, he detailed his career in public service and thanked the town government’s employees.
“They literally are the reason for this town’s daily successes. Over the past eight years we have become a family and I will miss each one,” he said. “I have been honored to serve as the mayor of this wonderful little town in which I grew up, went to school and by choice returned to live in. I have never regretted one day of that decision nor have I regretted one vote, action or initiative I undertook during the past eight years.”
Amid shouts of “amen” from the crowd, Townsend, who has served on Fairmont’s Board of Commissioners for 12 years, said “love, peace and joy” will be motivate his actions as mayor.
“I want it to feel inclusive. I want everybody to feel welcome. I want everybody’s ideas on the table,” he said.
Amelia McLean struck a similar tone.
“What the world needs is more leaders with great moral standards,” she said. “I stand tonight to say that you will always find me standing firm on what is right.” McLean is a pastor in Dillon, S.C., but lives in Fairmont.
Terry Evans, who also serves on the Robeson County Planning Board, told attendees that economic growth is on Fairmont’s horizon.
“Fairmont is even inside this thing,” he said, holding up a binder containing plans for the county. “If you hold on, the jobs are coming, the money is coming.”
If residents aren’t happy with his work, Evans said they should feel free to petition for his removal.
“If I cannot do what I promise to do, you do not have to wait four years to get me out of office,” he said.
Monte McCallum, who works in mental health and also coaches basketball, won his seat as a write-in candidate.
“It feels great just to see that the people took the time not only to vote but to write me in,” he said.
He assured his constituents that he would continue to be accessible to them.
“My ears are open to all of you,” he said. “I am a community person so a lot of you know me.”
Commissioner J.J. McCree was appointed mayor pro tem.
Outgoing Commissioner Kim Ammons joyfully thanked her colleagues for the “wonderful experience.” Wayland Lennon, also an outgoing commissioner, was absent. He did not seek re-election.
After the ceremony, Mayor Townsend got right to work leading the rest of the meeting, which included no new actions.
“I tried not to show it, but it was a bit overwhelming,” he said after posing for photos with dozens of friends and supporters. “But I know I can do it.”